Old Brewery Theatre
Summer Stock 1954-1972

Helena Brewery Ad, 1891 City Directory


The Old Brewery Theatre was a summer stock playhouse on West Main Street. It was operated from 1954 -1972 by Helena promoter and politico Walter H. Marshall (1921-1986) and his wife Doris Marsolias Marshall (1903-1994), who taught dramatics at Helena Senior High School, 1947-1968

The theatre was housed in what was once the Capital Brewery, pictured above in operation during the 1890s. Parts of the Capital Brewery building dated back to 1865, when it was the Helena Brewery. It became the Capital Brewery in 1885, and was expanded over the decades.

The building was demolished in July of 1973 as part of the Urban Renewal Program, which destroyed many of Helena's Victorian buildings.



Location
46°34'55.68"N 112° 2'42.42"W


 

 

The Last Chancer Tour Train at the Old Brewery Theatre, 1956


Walter and Doris Marshall, 1970s


FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY "I'VE MET THEM ALL" BY WALTER H. MARSHALL - NOW OUT OF PRINT

The Marshalls came to Helena via New York City in 1947. By 1948, Doris was producing and directing Helena High School plays, plus melodramas by the community theater group "The Pan Handler Players" at the Green Meadow Country Club and the Marlow Theatre.

The Marshalls began producing plays at John Quigley's Frontier Town atop McDonald Pass in 1951. In 1953, "Helena, Unlimited" - a not-for-profit organization spearheaded by past Chamber of Commerce President H. S. "Hi" Dotson - purchased the run-down Capital Brewery building on West Main with the intention of converting it into a summer playhouse. Using volunteer labor, the Marshalls oversaw the cleanup and renovation of the Brewery, and produced several plays there in 1954. They also continued to produce shows at Frontier Town in '54, but in 1955 they began focusing solely on the Old Brewery Theatre and The Bandit Players.



Opening Night Patrons at the Old Brewery Theatre - June 15 1954


FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY "I'VE MET THEM ALL" BY WALTER H. MARSHALL - NOW OUT OF PRINT





The Old Brewery Theatre, June 24 1957


PHOTO BY JEAN O'BLENIS • COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD


The Old Brewery Theatre, June 24 1957 (detail).

 

 

Gary Cooper at the Old Brewery Theatre, 1960


FROM "GARY COOPER'S LAST VISIT HOME", LOOK MAGAZINE, JULY 18 1961
COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD

Film Star Gary Cooper (1901-1961), a Helena native, greets young fan Yvonne Slead at the old Brewery Theatre (in background), 1960. It was Cooper's last trip to Helena.

 


Walter Marshall & Theatre Poster


FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY "I'VE MET THEM ALL" BY WALTER H. MARSHALL - NOW OUT OF PRINT

Walter Marshall, with ever-present cigar, holding an Old Brewery Theatre Poster, about 1968.



Old Brewery Theatre, 1960s

The Old Brewery Theatre was producing "Oklahoma!" when this 1960s photo was taken.

 

 

Walter Marshall Drinking Beer in the Prop Room, 1968


FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY "I'VE MET THEM ALL" BY WALTER H. MARSHALL - NOW OUT OF PRINT



1972 Interior Photos of the Old Brewery Theatre
Courtesy of Bob Clarkson, Clarkson Studio, Helena

Lobby


CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW



Lobby

 


Lobby



The Old Pipe Organ


CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 

"The Dungeon"
where liquid refreshments were served




The set for "Butterflies Are Free"
the theatre's final production, August 1972




The stairs leading up to Walter Marshall's office

Thanks, Bob, for sharing these memorable images!



Final Season, 1972



COURTESY OF THE DAVID POOR COLLECTION

 

No Future

 

 

Auction of Props





Walter Marshall Tells the Tale


In his 1980s autobiography "I've Met Them All" (Falcon Press), Walter Marshall told the story of The Old Brewery Theatre. You may read it in PDF format by clicking on the image below.

[Editor's Note: Walter Marshall was noted (some might say notorious) for his bombastic style. Although he accomplished a great deal during his lifetime, the mention of his name caused many Helenans to roll their eyes. As a promoter and social / political climber, exaggeration was his stock-in-trade, and it often comes through in his writing.]

CLICK TO OPEN PDF FILE


 

Burial Niche of Walter and Doris, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC


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